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As professionals who take pride in their work (just as the celebrities care about their charities), your staff will likely try their best to ensure your company’s success while exhibiting. However, by matching your staff to the available opportunities in your booth (according to their interest and experience), you will enable them to excel without as much stress.


Do you watch the Celebrity Apprentice? If you don’t, you may be surprised by the parallels between this show and exhibiting…

In one episode, the teams were tasked with performing cooking demonstrations for a live studio audience on behalf of Omaha Steaks.  For Team Backbone, Meatloaf was appointed as the “chef” (despite his admitted lack of cooking experience). Drama plagued the men’s team, but remembering their charities motivated the contestants to do their best. On stage, Meatloaf remained calm and added value to the team’s presentation by engaging the audience, providing helpful cooking tips, and ensuring that all dishes were prepared correctly within the allotted time. His performance was praised heavily by the executives/judges (they even mentioned that, based on this presentation, Meatloaf could be a real spokesperson for their company); however, off stage, he expressed his personal discomfort and frustration in performing without adequate time to prepare.

Although the women’s team wasn’t without issues of their own, the drama on the men’s team proved to be a greater issue (at least where “winning” and “losing” was concerned). Meatloaf and the other members of Team Backbone cited their project manager’s poor time management/organizational skills as the cause of their problems.

I can relate and, unfortunately, your staff may be able to relate as well.  I work in events full time so I can certainly appreciate (and promote) the need for flexibility; however, for example, just because I can learn volumes about your company on the fly and politely find an excuse or solution (when meeting with attendees) for the lack of planning/organization in your booth, doesn’t mean I enjoy it (which is a shame, because events can be very enjoyable with proper planning!).  Most likely, your staff feels the same way.  Although your attendees don’t see or (hopefully) feel the effects of the chaos that occurs “off stage,” your staff does and it impacts their overall feelings towards the event and, sometimes, your company.

Hopefully this is not an issue for you but, if it is, here are four things we can take away from this episode:

(1) Place your staff in positions that suit them.
As professionals who take pride in their work (just as the celebrities care about their charities), your staff will likely try their best to ensure your company’s success while exhibiting. However, by matching your staff to the available opportunities in your booth (according to their interest and experience), you will enable them to excel without as much stress. Even if you only make this small change during your next event, you will enjoy a noticeable difference in team morale, personal interactions on-site, and your overall results.

(2) Provide your staff with necessary education.
You already have a program in place for training new staffers (right?), but hopefully you haven’t forgotten that even the most seasoned veterans also require continued education to ensure your messaging is current and consistent for all visitors. Meatloaf said, “I have never gone into a situation where I didn’t rehearse,” and your trade show efforts should be no different. Take the time to rehearse specific situations (role playing may feel silly but can be helpful in solidifying understanding), review the “company approved” answers to common questions, and discuss the event itself (to provide your staff with an understanding of what they will encounter on-site).

(3) Outline your expectations for your staff.
John Rich said, “In Celebrity Apprentice, time is everything,” and one could argue that, in exhibiting, this statement also applies. Your staff needs to know when you expect them to be where, what the guidelines are for their activities before, during, and after the event, as well as how they can help your company to achieve its goals. Preparing a packet with relevant administrative information and distributing it to those involved well before the event provides the opportunity for your staff to manage their time appropriately, which provides you with the opportunity to enjoy a smooth execution.

(4) Lead your team.
Finally, as the leader of your team, you must set an example (this was a big issue for Team Backbone). If you appear to be in control of the situation, your team will feel more comfortable following you. If your team can see that you are maximizing your time for work during the event, they will feel motivated to put forth an extra effort as well. As a leader, it is also important that you are supportive of your staff. This can be done easily by making time to check in with your staff members individually, asking for their input, and listening actively to their thoughts. When issues arise, address them directly with your team and be confident as you convey solutions.

Before you get back to your day, take another minute to reflect upon your recent/upcoming events. How do you typically handle the general planning/preparations, on-site execution, and post-show wrap up/follow up efforts?

Does/will your team know exactly what they are getting themselves into before each event or, despite your (lack of) best efforts, do things just happen to come together at the last minute, producing reasonable results?

If you applied what we have learned from this episode of Celebrity Apprentice, how could your situation be improved in the future?

About the author

Robyn Davis

Robyn Davis

Robyn Davis was raised by self-employed parents, learning the ins and outs of business…

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